Drew Chicone is the creative mind behind probably many of your favorite fly patterns. His patterns are available in countless fly shops and have inspired even more people to learn the art of fly tying. We sat down with Drew to pick his brain about what drives him to create patterns and his overall fly tying process, check it out!
Flylords: When did you tie your first fly? What pattern was it?
Drew: The first fly I can remember tying was at the age of 6 or 7. I had found my parents fly tying kit in the basement, which was a pistachio green sewing box full of tinsel, fur, and feathers. First, my father tied his mosquito pattern and then he coached me on what turned out to be the world’s largest mosquito pattern. A few years back I was going through some of my dad’s old fly boxes and I found the pair tucked away in old amber colored Plano 3214 Micro-magnum fly box (Image above).
Flylords: What was the first fish you caught on your own tie?
Drew: It was a Landlocked Salmon in Seneca Lake on Easter Morning. To this day it is probably my most vivid fishing memory.
Flylords: What is your favorite pattern to tie these days?
Drew: It’s just about impossible to only have one favorite… That being said, I guess my favorite fly to tie is the one that is working at the time or the ones I need for an upcoming trip. If I had to pick a category it would be bonefish flies.
Flylords: What drew you to the saltwater side of fly tying?
Drew: I have lived all over the country, but one thing remains constant… Wherever I am, I am fishing and tying flies for the fish in that particular area. When I moved to Florida, it just seemed natural to make the change from fresh to saltwater.
Flylords: What draws you to fly tying and fly design?
Drew: Having spent a fair amount of time behind the vise or around others tying, I believe that the reasons for tying fur and feathers onto a hook go much beyond catching fish, further than any who don’t tie could ever imagine. Whether it’s the camaraderie or the creativity, art, or simply a means to catch fish, people are passionate about tying flies for a lot of different reasons. For me, it’s all those reasons and more. Tying has become part of my daily routine, and teaching people how to tie is one of my favorite activities. Sometimes I tie to get away from the distractions and the general busyness of everyday life. I find tying and teaching others to tie, calms my nerves and relaxes my mind . . . I guess it’s kind of like therapy for me. Ultimately that’s the reason for why I write monthly newsletters, articles and fly tying books.
Flylords: What inspires you to start working on a new fly design?
Drew: For the most part, I create new patterns to try and pacify my insatiable yearning to convince, trick, or outsmart fish. The gratification comes more from solving a constantly changing puzzle with infinitely different rules. Learning what it will take to make a specific fish, at a specific time and place, turn on and eat even if it doesn’t necessarily want to is what keeps me going.
Flylords: What is your process while designing a testing a new pattern?
Drew: My process starts with the fish I am trying to catch. Step one is analyzing their feeding behavior and answering a couple of questions; “What are they eating?” and “Where are they eating it?”
What type of prey item are you going to try to imitate? Some type of baitfish, shrimp, crab, worm . . . Is it on the surface, on the bottom, or somewhere in between? Once I have an answer or even a general idea of what the answer might be to those major questions, the rest of the process almost takes care of itself. Most of the time each question has multiple possible answers, and maybe there is no way of knowing the exact answer. However, after working through these questions, I have a pretty good idea of what types of materials I need to be lashing to the hook and what kind of hook I need to use as a foundation. From there it’s just on the water test-and-tweak until you are satisfied with the pattern.
Flylords: How do you select materials to get different effects in your patterns?
Drew: Familiarizing yourself with the available materials and knowing their qualities and characteristics is the other big piece of the puzzle. Honing the skills you need, however, does not happen overnight. Mastering the ability to interpret all this information and apply it to pattern development may take the better portion of a lifetime. A good way to fast-track your understanding of how this all works is to study patterns that have a proven track record of catching fish. These flies do a great job of mimicking a prey item and its specific movement. Understanding where the fly was intended to be fished, what factors led the designer to choose the materials he did, and why the pattern has evolved helps to give you the whole picture.
Flylords: When did you first realize that fly tying was going to be your profession?
Drew: I don’t think there was ever a real moment of clarity. I started tying for myself and friends. The more fly fishing friends I made over the years, the more buddies I ended up tying flies for. I wrote my first how-to article in 2012 and after a few of those, it was on to books. I love doing all of it, so it wasn’t really work… Fly Tying as a profession just kinda snuck up on me.
Flylords: Do you have any advice for anglers looking to get into fly tying?
Drew: I think the hardest part is getting over the initial frustration of not being able to create what you see others doing. You gotta start slow and tie a lot of really easy flies to build up your confidence and muscle memory. I am often asked, “Drew, how do I become a better tier”? The simplest answer is: just keep tying flies. After a few hundred of the same one or two flies, you will be comfortable working with the tools and materials. And you should have a pretty good idea of the basic techniques. You must still work on proper material proportions, thread pressure, and placement, but with each fly, your dexterity will improve. After about 500, your flies will look markedly cleaner than the first few hundred, and you will have a much clearer understanding of material placement on the hook.
Flylords: Favorite drink to enjoy while tying?
Drew: Although I’m a big fan of wine, my favorite beverage while tying flies is Frigate Reserve’s 21-year-old Rum. In my humble opinion as a rum aficionado, It’s a near flawless work of art created from the Legendary Master Distiller, Don Pancho Fernandez. Pour your self a few fingers next time you belly up to your bench, you won’t be disappointed.
Flylords: What’s next for Drew Chicone in 2019?
Drew: 2019 should be pretty exciting. I’ve partnered with CTS and Maven Rods out of Auckland, New Zealand and will be helping to spread the word about their world-renowned blanks and beautifully handcrafted rods. I’m really looking forward to working with them as an ambassador and experiencing all the new international fishing and friendship opportunities on the horizon.